Taking pictures at a political event is hard.
I'm a visually oriented person who started off my nascent journalism career (in junior high, in a "wet" lab) as a shooter, and I've always respected how much the right image can communicate about a story. But I gained a deeper appreciation for political photojournalism when I compared the pictures I took on the campaign trail with ones taken by CQ Roll Call Photo Editor Bill Clark and Photographer Tom Williams.
Parades make for good art in political campaigns. There are a lot of variables — from children running around, Shriners buzzing by in mini-cars and the opportunity for candidates to literally touch the people they are trying to woo to the ballot box. But it's not a simple matter of pointing and shooting, particularly when a writer such as myself also is surveying the situation and attempting to construct a narrative about the event.
Here's a picture I took at an event on Oct. 18, when Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick was walking in a parade in Tuba City, Ariz.
Now check out the following photo Tom took in Madisonville, Ky., at a parade on Nov. 2 where Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was shaking hands along the route.
My shot of Kirkpatrick is busy, with the eye distracted by the actions and expressions of other people in the frame, as well as a building in the background that competes for attention.
In Tom's shot, there is no doubt of the focus. Grimes is lit beautifully with sunshine peeking down the way; she's got that Bill Clinton, two-handed grip going, and although her husband Andrew is to the right, and the two people to the left are great components in the picture, she's the star. Your eye gravitates to her, the subject, and the people in the image are geared toward her as well.
Two handshakes. Two photos. Two different results. We all have cameras in our hip pockets now, thanks to our smart phones, but that doesn't mean we're all professionals.
Related: Life on Mars, or Arizona's 1st District Roll Call Results Map: Results and District Profiles for Every Seat Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.